Most educators would agree that normal refers to a standard that most kids fall in to. The problem we face is what is “normal?” What is normal for you is not necessarily normal for me, right? So how do we really know what IS normal?
Rather than debate how to define it, let’s agree that the answers are going to be quite varied for each of us depending on our culture, education, family, experiences, attitudes, and faith. So, if we agree that normal is different for everyone, why do we teach to a norm? Are we trying to fit square pegs into a round hole? Arguably, yes, at least at times.
Here is my challenge to all parents and educators regardless of where you live, what school or schools you have attended, how much money you make, or even what you currently believe. The new normal of teaching is this: When it comes to education and learning, normal has to be individualized or it becomes impotent. Too often we find ourselves teaching to the test and trying to push every child into the mold of what is presented. The problem comes when kids have a learning disability that has not been diagnosed, or worse…misdiagnosed.
The system is broke. STAAR test results have come back here in Texas with news that is disheartening to everyone:
There has been a drop in the percent of children in Reading, Science, and Social Studies. (I was surprised that Math was not on the list)
4th Graders had dropped to 70% passing!
8th Graders had dropped to 76% passing!
*These stats were reported on the news this morning ironically as I was writing this blog.
If you are a parent or educator, the alarm bells should be going off in your head. This trend can’t continue and expect us to have any positive outcomes. We are settling for a watered down norm which we expect the majority of kids to pass. The problem comes in continually lowering the bar in order to achieve an arbitrary standard.
I do have not a magic wand to fix the problem. I am simply an educator, a grandfather, and concerned citizen that sees that the hole in the ship is getting bigger and bigger. We can’t continue to pass on struggling kids to the next grade just to get them out of our hair. Lowering the standards is not the answer either. We can’t concentrate on “the test” and forget to teach the basics. We can’t focus on grades and forget that mastery of the subject is necessary. If we have produced illiterate kids, what have we really accomplished?
I am just one voice, but I hope that people in places of power and decision-making wake up and smell the coffee. We have a problem that is not going away. Throwing new programs at it will not fix the underlying issues. We seem to try to put Band-aids over gaping wounds and expect to stop the bleeding. This is the new normal…and there is nothing normal about it.